Author Robert Amos (left) met painter E. J. Hughes in the ’90s. Amos will present his new book, E. J. Hughes Paints Vancouver Island, at the Nanaimo Art Gallery on Sunday, June 24. (Photo courtesy Sarah Amos)

Author Robert Amos (left) met painter E. J. Hughes in the ’90s. Amos will present his new book, E. J. Hughes Paints Vancouver Island, at the Nanaimo Art Gallery on Sunday, June 24. (Photo courtesy Sarah Amos)

Victoria writer Robert Amos tells Vancouver Island painter E.J. Hughes’ story

‘E. J. Hughes Paints Vancouver Island’ to be launched at Nanaimo Art Gallery on July 24

Twenty-five years ago Victoria-based painter and Times Colonist art columnist Robert Amos received an unexpected phone call.

It was from Pat Salmon, assistant to the renowned and reclusive Vancouver Island painter E.J. Hughes. The artist was driving down from Duncan for his annual car servicing and he wanted to invite Amos for lunch.

Hughes had been a topic in Amos’ articles. Amos pointed out that because Hughes’ work was sold out of a gallery in Montreal, aside from one painting at the University of Victoria and the occasional travelling exhibition, “the people who live in the landscape which he depicted didn’t get the benefit of being able to see it through this artist’s eyes.”

“It seemed like an oversight to me and so I began writing about those things in the newspaper, alerting my readers to the fact that there was a really wonderful artist of this region that we just didn’t know very well,” Amos said.

Amos suspects it was this writing that got Hughes’ attention. After their lunch to two kept in touch, and Amos was later invited to visit Hughes at his home studio and tour his painting locations. Following Hughes’ death in 2007 Amos attended for the internment of his ashes.

Salmon had been working with Hughes on a biography of the artist since 1977, but by 2012 her health started declining and she called Amos to ask if he would take the project over. He said yes before she finished asking the question.

“It is the greatest prize if you’re interested in writing about the art history of this province,” Amos said of the opportunity.

“Emily Carr, of course, understandably, is the great figure. But if you want to write about her, she’s pretty well taken care of … but Hughes is next in line.”

It took Amos years to sort through the archives Salmon had amassed and decide how to arrange the paintings, sketches, personal notes and photographs. The end result is E.J. Hughes Paints Vancouver Island, part biography, part illustrated Island road trip.

Amos will present the book at the Nanaimo Art Gallery on June 24.

“Our island is an extraordinary place and he is the great poet of it and I think that when people see our Island through his eyes they’re going to feel more strongly about the place.”

WHAT’S ON … Robert Amos reading at the Nanaimo Art Gallery ArtLab on Sunday, June 24 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.



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